Music

Another Take on Obamamania

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Here now with an Election Day (and beyond) recollection, please welcome our Clubs Editor and scribe extraordinaire Kandia Crazy Horse.

In honor of my mother, a post-Election Day playlist:

“Fantasy” / Earth Wind & Fire
“Pata Pata” / Miriam Makeba
“We’re a Winner” / The Impressions
“Blues for Huey” / Hugh Masekela
“Everybody Is a Star” / Sly & the Family Stone
“Oh Happy Day” / Edwin Hawkins Singers
“To Be Young, Gifted and Black” / Nina Simone
“My People, Hold On” / Eddie Kendricks
“What Can You Do For Me?” / Labelle
“Someday We’ll All Be Free” / Donny Hathaway
“Wake Up Everybody” / Harold Melvin & the Bluenotes
“We Can Work It Out” / Stevie Wonder
“Chocolate City” / Parliament
“B.O.B.” / OutKast
“Everybody’s Everything” / Santana
“Harvest For The World” / The Isley Brothers
“Smiley Faces” / Gnarls Barkley
“Bustin’ Loose” / Chuck Brown & the Soul Searchers
“Axis Bold As Love” / The Jimi Hendrix Experience
“Fantasy” / Me’Shell Ndegeocello

I have spent most of the past 21 months virtually ignorant as to Barack Hussein Obama’s steadfast sojourn to the White House, perhaps one of few African-Americans more under a rock than that recent media bête noire, the unrepentant West Virginia voter. That was intentional, this period having been devoted to incessant mourning for my late mother, the Honorable Anne Marie Forrester. Anyhow, as an ornery Dixie rebelle, John Edwards with his mill-town ethics had been my horse in this race until he was forced to withdraw, disgrace on his doorstep. Still, I dutifully rose at cockcrow on Election Day, touched my mother’s ashes, called to the Spirits, and went up the street in her gown and gold Gye Nyame to cast my ballot at PS 153.

Somehow, the voter queue was already stretching down to the post office on 146th Street, and after eventually filing inside the school, it was not a peaceful process, with (predominantly) Negroes already complaining about the disorganization, but one could ascribe this malaise to fear that their collective hopes would yet again be taken in vain. I heard a middle-aged sister ask an elderly dame what it had been like to vote for Kennedy; the Eldress recalled that the turnout had been very good for the icon of Camelot, but she had never seen anything like these throngs already assembled by 6:30 a.m. After 90 minutes of that, plus a disco nap and a perplexing commute amid the seemingly dour faces of New Yorkers on the trains and in the vicinity of Astor Place, I found myself at work, unable to concentrate nor settle to anything much for hours on end. The pit of dread was back in force, despite the fact that a big part of the reason I’d felt able to blatantly ignore the tedious, racially fraught minutiae of the campaigning was that I knew my mother had the election in the bag. Every time someone nearby expressed doubt or fear, I simply shrugged and withdrew into the Void. I may be too godless for the right-wing conservatives who’d hijacked this country’s public sphere, yet my semblance of animist faith is such that I knew my mother was tirelessly shining it on from the Upper Longhouse—as she had always done in life—and had Barack’s back.

While Mamanne was still working hard, y’all, closing the polls in redbone style, I dropped in at the East Village abode of my best friends, including a native Clevelander fretting over her home state’s battleground; her mate, whose grandcestors came to these shores from Russia, was definitely chuffed to see a son of immigrants do good. They didn’t want to turn on the TV till after 9 p.m., and I was too nervous to eat, but we shared some fine red wine and spread the love. Next, it was on to Santos’ Party House down in Chinatown for Q-Tip’s private election/CD release par-tay, but my mother’s spirit was urging me northwards—it was a given that I should be with my people at her hero Adam Clayton Powell’s office building when the Son of Africa took the weight. I eventually disembarked at Harlem’s historic crossroads of 125th and Malcolm X, joining a throng of black and white revelers spilling out of Sylvia’s.

I reached the JumboTron-laden Plaza, full of jubilant if tacitly wary brothers and sisters arrayed across the bleachers and many impromptu perches in wait. A crew of four or five young brothers were charging passersby a dollar to take pictures with them to commemorate history, especially flirting with comely European women sporting expensive equipment and/or Obama paraphernalia; nearby was a bona fide African drum circle, with lively folks walking up here and there with djembes strapped on their backs to take up the rhythm and impromptu Bam chants. Almost everyone was grinning and cheering, fleetingly booing when the JumboTron spit some returns they didn’t like, pleasantly tolerant of the local politicos come down from the office party to hold forth onstage, but far more keen on their personal and irreverent celebration.

I ceded some of my perch to a South Indian bro from Bangalore who was trying to snap overviews of the jumping crowds while his countrymen/buddies stayed securely back at Columbia’s campus. They missed folks throwing down to McFadden & Whitehead’s immortal “Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now” in and around Gov. Paterson’s fired-up speech—yes, it wasn’t lost on this music head that it was necessary to reach wayyy back to the hallowed sound of Philly to properly commemorate tonight. We can only hope that Barack’s triumph inspires another Golden Age of black pop fit to wash away the past decade’s demoralizing lows.

Without family or friends nearby, I remained mostly cautiously hopeful and quiet, focused on my mother and recalling not just her many sacrifices but those of all the colored folk, known and unknown, who have shed blood, sweat, and tears so that we might all as Americans come to the light of this new era. Yes, I was saddened to see a couple weave their way through the crowd proclaiming this was a great time to “go get fucked up.” Then there was the pair of teenage girls, way too young to be so cynical, darting through the revelers even after the climax of Obama’s stunning speech, chanting, “Same shit, different president!” And later, it was definitely sobering to limp up St. Nicholas Avenue far away from the loud parading on 125th Street and see a few homeless people lumber out of the darkness, not at all caught up in the rapture of Obama’s historic win. What will become of them, if the nation indeed resurrects itself? After all, I had begun my Election Day by stepping out the door to see the “Menace of 147th Street” lurking before me on the desolate block, the one who loves to take a shit in the stairway of our local subway station and bathe and frolic in the sewage water at the curbs. Does our newfound hope extend to him, and can it reclaim him from years of madness and disenfranchisement?

It’s probably too soon to have any deep thoughts or answers. What’s certain is our craftspeople must be inspired to renovate American culture, especially in terms of sound and vision. All I know is it’s heartening to hear little schoolchildren outside chanting “BA-RACK OOO-BAMA!!!” on the streets of this Little-Africa-on-the-Hudson that has seen so many decades of joy and suffering. I can scarcely type, with my right/writing hand cramped from corresponding by text with friends flung far and wide: the rockers of Earl Greyhound, who ventured out on the highways of America on Election Morning to celebrate rocking face and mixing the races; Shelby, a musician/producer and high school friend of Alabamian descent who’s been composing techno-ring shouts to address the plight of plainfolks dispossessed by the economic crisis; my record-collecting friend who owns no TV and craved updates, pondering whether this is the first time we can truly be proud to be American; my dear friend Patterson Hood, whose band Drive-By Truckers is about to roar up here from Georgia and ‘Bammy and play two beyond-ecstatic revivals with the Hold Steady Thursday and Friday night; my friends Jenny and Lee who married last year in Oak Park, IL, and were the first to rave to me about Obama; wonderful Africa-championing close friends and colleagues of my mother’s at the U.N.; the great Mexican-American singer-songwriter Davíd Garza ringing in from Bush Country; a titanic Texan musician/scholar inquiring what I’m a-gonna do for my “Black Day”; my twin watching Comedy Central coverage in Biden-land; and one of my dearest friends, a fellow hopeful Afro-Algonquin isolated upstate who spoke of being surrounded by an “America” hellbent on “voting for Palin.”

Well, I reckon we all must simply look deep inside ourselves right now and figure out what kind of change we’re gonna be and support. Me, I am overdue to ring up my Canadian sistergirl Serena Jean, who I’d been soliciting in recent months to pave my way in the Great North should McCain prevail, and laugh at her good fortune that her homeland will now not be overrun by fleeing liberals and myriad misguided outcasts. The refrain I heard in the wee hours as some anonymous sister trundled out to work is going to buoy this day forever: “Barack Obama won…Yeah…Hallelujah!!!”

And I am taking a “Black Day,” despite the admonishments of BET pundits passed on to me via my sister, and will leave soon to give much thanks to my dear mother and all of our Ancestors up by the Spuyten Duyvil. Special blessings must be offered up to all my friends’ and fam’s children, biracial and otherwise, born during these months of Obama’s road to Pennsylvania Avenue and the big house built by enslaved Africans, for this world that my mother never gave up dreaming for, the one I have scarcely ever dared to believe in, will be for them: my niece Stoney Nakoda, Askari, Elliot James, Jackson Bo, Teo Freeman, and Coral Lily Maybelle. (Hear more from a few of these folks here.) Loves, that’s America!

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